In recent years we have seen the Internet of Things (IoT) move from the drawing board to become an emerging reality. It’s predicted IoT will radically redefine the relationship we have with the products we buy and the brands that make them. For brands, It will be about creating better customer experiences.
Shortly, we wil be living In a world full of connected and interconnected devices that are sensing and monitoring every interaction we have with the world. The evolution of sensor technology means cheaper and smaller sensors can process greater amounts of data.
Powerful new network infrastructure means that the massive increases in data can be transferred to the cloud. A limitless array of products can be monitored in real-time and the associated data about those products stored.
In a recent Linkedin article, Telstra CEO Andrew Penn wrote, “Key to understanding IoT is that it is not a technology revolution, but a customer experience revolution.”
Penn highlights how sensors built into a product like a refrigerator or a washing machine can detect a potential problem before it is an issue. The data is processed and sent to the customer and to the manufacturer and its service department. The service department immediately knows how serious the problem is, what needs to be fixed or replaced, and how that effects the customer’s warranty.
Not only has the device been fixed before a problem occurred, warranty and service costs have been reduced. The data `collected can be used to design and make better products. Owning a washing machine or refrigerator has become easier, cheaper and less complex. Overall a better customer experience.
That’s if IoT is done properly.
IoT could be a double edged sword
Ken Raley, consultant and client success director For the Customer Experience Company, advises that IoT can be a double edged sword, “There are countless ways the customer experience can benefit from IoT. If done properly it can enhance every touchpoint a customer has with a product, particularly complex products or products that they have long term relationships with. People are very excited by the potential opportunities associated with IoT. Done well it should make the effort of owning complex things, effortless, smooth and delightful.”
“On the other hand, if done poorly, it can create a giant security nightmare and a mishmash of features and functions that make the customer experience more confusing and frustrating.”
The impact on brands and businesses is predicted to be dramatic. Brands need to address a few basic questions:
- What are the opportunities in analysing the data collected from devices?
- How can it be used to improve product design and manufacture?
- How can it be used to create an enhanced customer experience?
The potential of IoT, though offering almost limitless opportunities, can also appear daunting and fraught with significant challenges to bring those opportunities to fruition.
The next generation of supported products
Determining when, how, and to what extent to apply connected products and other sensor-generated data to the customer experience remains poorly understood by corporations, according to industry analyst, Jessica Groopman from Altimeter Prophet.
It’s all too easy to get caught up with the hype surrounding the technology. The real and significant opportunities with IoT lie in empowering the customer as well as the brand. Raley from the Customer Experience Company, comments, “The people who really get this are going to build the next generation of supported products. These people will build, market and support products in way that is radically different to the way traditional organisations build things today”.
Raley adds, “Rather than a closed exclusively proprietary model being used to make things, there will be a significant shift to a networked, open access and collaborative approach to making new products. This will entail a radical shift in skills and mindset. Most organisations are not prepared and do not have the people with the relevant skills.
Groupman recently authored a report, Customer Experience in the Internet of Things: Five Ways Brands Can Use Sensors to Build Better Customer Relationships https://www.prophet.com/thinking/2015/03/customer-experience-in-the-internet-of-thingsnew-research-customer-experience-in-the-internet-of-things/, which highlights the steps businesses need to begin crafting strategies and architecting experiences that leverage sensors to empower both brand and consumer. The steps are:
- Prioritise Use Cases: IoT doesn’t start with technology. Brands must first define and articulate their vision for the future state of customer experiences first. It’s about identifying opportunities to empower customers.
- Make the business case: How brands embrace IoT for consumer-facing activations is unique to each company’s product/service, budget, vision, and culture. But regardless of industry, use case, or size of deployment, companies must align any sensor-enabled initiatives with the larger objectives.
- Build the infrastructure for interoperability: More often than not, bringing IoT-enabled experiences to market successfully requires more than one business function. Whether generated from Marketing, IT, Product, or elsewhere, those leading IoT initiatives must build the infrastructure (and mindset) for ongoing ideation and collaboration with other functions.
- Engage with transparency: brands must embrace new standards of transparency, articulating how (and what) consumer data they are collecting, how it is used, shared, stored, etc.
The Internet of Things no longer sits in the realm of science fiction. It is a reality that represents a very fundamental shift in the way customer experiences are created.